• Fred Plumer
    • After an extensive background in building management, real estate development and restaurant ownership and management, Fred Plumer made a career shift in 1981. He earned his M.Div. degree at the Pacific School of Religion while doing work in an inner city community center.

      In 1984 Rev. Plumer was called to the Irvine United Congregational Church in Irvine, California to lead a UCC new start church. The church became known throughout the denomination as one of the more exciting and progressive mid-size congregations in the nation.

      Rev. Plumer served on the Board of Directors of the Southern California Conference of the United Church of Christ (UCC) for five years, and chaired the Commission for Church Development and Evangelism for three of those years. In that time the Southern California Conference put in place one of the most aggressive church development plans in its history.

      Rev. Plumer regularly gives workshops on church growth. He became a member of the Executive Council for The Center for Progressive Christianity in 1995 and has written The Study Guide for TCPC’s “eight points.” He has had several articles published on church development, building faith communities and redefining the purpose of the enlightened Christian Church.

      Always interested in the latest and best scholarship, Rev. Plumer has been involved with the Jesus Seminar since his graduate work in the early eighties.

      Rev. Plumer was the executive producer of a video and workbook on the Open and Affirming process in the UCC. This highly acclaimed video, “A Journey of Faith,” has now been used in five countries and in thousands of churches of several denominations as a teaching tool for those interested in studying the subject of the church and sexual orientation issues. In 1990 he was the recipient of ECCO’s Humanitarian Award for his work in this area. Rev. Plumer has been active in the inter-faith dialogue since his seminary years. In 1989 under his leadership the UCC church agreed to host a small group of Jews who wanted to start a Reconstructionist Synagogue. The congregations shared space, operating expenses, teaching forums, mission outreach projects, special services and meals for over 15 years. The synagogue became one of the fastest growing congregations in the nation with nearly five hundred families when they found it necessary to build their own facility. The unique relationship between the two congregations was the subject of numerous newspaper articles and radio talk shows providing Rev. Plumer many opportunities to speak of the importance of inter-religious dialogue. In 2000 with the support of the synagogue, a Mosque joined in this unique mix of religious traditions sharing space and ideas. The new relationship was covered by numerous newspapers, two talk shows and was a special feature that ran on CNN news, Christmas Eve and Christmas day.In September of 2004 Rev. Plumer retired from the Irvine church so he could devote more time to writing and his passion – reclaiming the message of Jesus.

      In January of 2006 after Jim Adams, founder of TCPC retired as President, Fred was elected as the new President.

As I shift to a more supportive role, alongside you now rather than leading, I want to share a few things you have made possible.

After over twenty-five years as an active board member and nearly fifteen years as President, I’m passing the baton to the next generation. I couldn’t be more excited! I’m grateful for our leadership and staff and the vision they have for where this movement needs to go. As a fellow donor, it is to you that I extend my gratitude. You have helped co-create and sustain this wonderful organization that is changing the world for the better.

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Does it matter which religion you pick? Is there a Hell?

I have months to live. I’m not too hooked into christian symbolism but I would like to communicate with a person.

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Borg and Compassion

I just finished “Unbelievable” and found many things in the book that I was unaware that I believed. I am curious to know how you feel about/reconcile people who are truly evil or unrepentantly evil like child abusers/pornographers. I can deal with people whose belief systems are different than mine but not with people who purposefully hurt other people, especially children. Some even believe it is their right to do so.
How can we love these people wastefully?

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The Source of Early Stories

I have a lot of respect for the non-literal interpretation of the New and Old Testament, but there are certain parts that I cannot see any metaphorical value in.
 My stumbling blocks are these:

1. What is the metaphorical message given by the genealogy found in genesis and in the gospels? It is the former that precisely gives young earth creationists their earth age.

2. What is the metaphorical value of the various horrific laws laid down in Deuteronomy or Leviticus? I can’t see a non-literal interpretation of telling us to destroy people who have sex if a woman is on her period.

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The Future of Progressive Christianity

While traditional Christian congregations continue their gradual decline, I’m often asked, “Well, how is Progressive Christianity doing?”

Other than your comment, “It is growing” I have no credible answer to that. If indeed, PC is growing, I am happy to hear that, but to what extent is it growing? I’ve been attending the Jesus Seminars on the road for many years, and have noticed a definite decline in attendance, particularly among the youth. The millennials do not seem interested.

What does that say about the possible future of the PC movement?

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Why are they afraid?

One suspects that some institutional churches are still AFRAID if reality demands that scriptures are not to be taken literally.  Why?

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If not for our sins, then why did Jesus die?

Sir, with all due respect, you shared well concerning how Jesus did not die because of sins. Please share your views on the reason or why Jesus died.

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Worldwide today: Christian beliefs in salvation

Do you have any reliable estimates of the number of Christians worldwide who do not subscribe to the viewpoint that “salvation comes only through Jesus Christ”?

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How do we know we have a soul?

The truth of the matter is that nowhere in the entire Bible are the terms “immortal” or “everlasting” linked with the word “soul.” Although it can be confusing because of our common usage of the word soul today, scriptures state very clearly that a soul is mortal, meaning that it dies. (Ezekiel 18:4, 20) Therefore, the Bible calls someone who has died, simply a “dead soul.”—Leviticus 21:11.

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Choosing a Bishop Spong book for your group

Boy you are asking a tough question that begs for a good response. I suppose that is why this ended up on my desk. Frankly the choice would depend on the level of sophistication of your group.

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Understanding the Scriptures

Yes, the idea the Jesus died for our sins, or sinful nature, is really one of the causes for so many people turning their backs on Christianity today.

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Why do we assign a gender to God?

I have used the term “God” here several times to explain how we became more patriarchal. But the truth be told, no one has been able to decide where the word God came from or how long ago. The word God is a relatively new European invention, which was never used in any of the ancient Judeo-Christian scripture manuscripts that were written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek or Latin. Scholars tend to agree that is was sometime in the 6th century, probably in the Germanic culture and a derivation of the word, gudan.

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Journey of Faith Sermon – Rev. Fred Plumer – IUCC on the 25th Anniversary of Open and Affirming

  View Video of Fred’s Sermon at IUCC on June 12th, 2016 My story starts 35 years ago when I entered seminary. Pacific School of Religion is the oldest seminary on the west coast and has always …

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Drink from the Well

From a rich lode of speeches, articles in eBulletins, and numerous publications, Fred Plumer has mined those that define the Progressive Christianity movement as it evolves to meet new challenges in a rapidly changing world. Written over a period of approximately six years, the material has been reviewed and edited but not in a manner that would change its original themes and purpose. This anthology is vintage Plumer, concise and direct to the point. It is organized into chapters that focus on a particular subject, so it might shed more light on that subject or theme.

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Book Review: Prayers of Via De Cristo: Calls to Worship for Progressive Christians

by James Armstrong

  For the many churches that have asked us for a book with calls to Worship and other liturgies, we now have an excellent one. It is Prayers of Via De Christo. It is the product of …

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Book Review: “Breakthrough” by John C. Robinson

John Robinson takes on a challenge that befuddles most of us in this interesting and even challenging book, Breakthrough. How does a scientist, or in this case a psychologist, deal with someone who has had a deeply, life changing spiritual experience, and yet has had no religious or spiritual experience himself. Most professional psychologist are not trained for this kind of thing, and Tom was no exception.

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In Support of The Reverend Gretta Vosper

Gretta represents a small but growing number of clergy who are best described as courageous. The have spoken the truth when others too often fumble for words or refuse to look any deeper than their online sermons.

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Remembering Tom Thresher

Today was a sad day. My wife and I just returned from the memorial service of Tom Thresher. If you are surprised you should be. One moment he was a vital 66 year old man and four weeks later he died from acute pancreatic cancer.

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The Chicken and the Egg

I have always suspected it is a chicken and egg phenomenon. What comes first? Personal transformation leads to the desire, or need even, to transform something in the world. Or do our efforts to change something that is unjust, something that causes suffering in the world lead to a personal and spiritual transformation?

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Fred Plumer’s Review and Forward for “Crazy Wisdom” by Tom Thresher

This book … is about doing something new and it is not going to be simple for a lot of people. It is about changing the way we learn, the way we think and the way we relate. It is about going deeper than most people are used to going in our competitive, goal driven society. The book is designed for those in small groups who sincerely want to dive more deeply into the profound wisdom of their traditions to make essential personal changes in their lives through a growing awareness.

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Saving the Earth

For the last several decades it is been clear to me that one of the primary goals of the Jesus path is a profound spiritual experience of Oneness with all life. At times I have used terms such as becoming awake to the interconnectedness or interdependency of all creation and creatures. Admittedly, these are only words which attempt to describe an awareness which defies an exact or precise definition. Other spiritual teachers had different ways of describing this phenomenon, though they may have emphasized different steps to experience it. In all cases, a common objective from all the great and enlightened teachers is learning how to live on this earth with awareness that we are all part of one living organism.

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Point 6 from the 8 Points Study Guide – Peace and Justice

The 8 Points By Which We Define Progressive Christianity

Jesus was very clear in a variety of passages that if we want to experience this Realm of the Infinite Mystery or have a direct experience of the Divine Presence, we will need to reach out and take risks on behalf of those who suffer. “Pick up your cross if you want to follow me,” he was supposed to have said. So he talks about the Good Samaritan who risked his life to help the wounded Jew lying on the side of the road. He models with his own life a willingness to turn the tables in the Temple because of the unjust exchange rate the money changers were charging the poor Jews who had no perfect animal to sacrifice. He eventually showed us we should not even fear death when we are seeking justice for those who have no hope. And he went into Jerusalem to protest the injustices of the Roman and Priestly treatment of his people.

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Q and A – God a Him?

The truth is no one really has any idea what we mean when we use the term God. And when we use he and she or father or even “father/mother” we are just using terms that the ancient people used. We have to remember that they thought the world was flat and God was in the sky. They believed we could see god through the dome they believed covered the earth at night when they were in fact looking at stars that may have been 300 million miles away. They may very well have been “seeing” light from a star that had burned out several million years before.

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The Transformational Path of Jesus

I know of no spiritual path which does not presume some kind of significant personal transformation will occur if followed and practiced. By transformation, I mean to experience a change in our understanding of what is real and discovering who and what we really are as humans in this universe. The language may be different, the steps in a different order, the emphasis slightly unique. But I have found there are far more similarities than there are differences between most of the well-known traditions. Their common goal is to learn how to live with a wide awake mind, an open heart and an absence of suffering. For many it also means cultivating the experience of joy.

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The Need to Transform

I find it fascinating that an institution which at its very core is about transformation, does all it can to resist change. Ironically from its earliest manifestations, the Christian path has always been about transformation. The Jesus story is first and foremost about changing our perspective, our purpose and ultimately our lives. What else but transformation could the story of a poor peasant who becomes a respected rabbi, a teacher of a new way of living, mean? How else can we interpret the intent of Jesus’ actual teachings like breaking down social barriers, forgiving our enemies and loving abundantly without qualifications than with steps to an inner and social transformation? What could being spiritually born again mean other than transformation? What does the symbol of resurrection mean other than transformation?

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Memorial to a Beloved Advisor, and Friend – Marcus Borg

Marcus became one of our most active Honorary Advisors, making suggestions and contributions over the years. We ended up several times at the same conferences and we usually found time to catch up on things from books to family. He never hesitated to let me know when he felt we had published something that was incorrect or with which he disagreed. We always appreciated his input. Marcus and I did have an ongoing, energetic conversation about the role of reciting ancient creeds which made statements we no longer believed, but we finally managed to agree to disagree. Those things are easy when you respect and love someone.

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Light in the Midst of Darkness

When I am struggling, maybe with grief, or trying to sort out something difficult in my life, I often go to a special spot and quietly wait for the new sun to appear. It always makes a significant difference in my being when I do this. My load feels lighter. My fears often dissolve. My grief can be transformed into hope. Over the years I have thought of all kinds of metaphors that may explain this phenomenon. I am reminded that it is a new dawn, or a new day. No matter how painful or dark my situation seems to be, as that sun comes over the horizon everything in my life begins to look and feel different. The new sun symbolizes a new beginning for me. I feel I have gained a new perspective. My internal darkness has dissolved into new light and I am comforted.

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Ritual – It’s in our DNA

Only recently I have come to realize that these were familiar and comfortable rituals, even if the words no longer had the same meaning for many of the attendees. These were rituals most of these folks in attendance had been repeating for decades. They were probably not paying attention to words or their meanings. But they were participating in something that brought them together with their church family or their denominational home. They were experiencing oneness, a connection of body and soul with the people who surrounded them. That is what rituals are supposed to do.

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Progressive Christianity and the Baha’i faith? Q and A

I was wondering however, what the separation between Progressive Christianity and the Ba’hai faith is, if any. I have only just finished reading the study guide, and though I don’t agree with all of the tenants set forth, it is a very interesting concept. It just seems very similar to the Ba’hai faith, and how different it is even from the standpoint of a Liberal Lutheran denomination.

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Progressive Christian Ideologies on Grace, Faith, and the Trinity? Q and A

From your website I have had many of my questions answered. I am a member of a relatively progressive Lutheran Church, but have more of a Methodist or Wesleyan concept of Grace. I could not find any ideologies on Grace or even Faith in your website or other sources on Progressive Christianity. Personally my faith is based on continuing my quest of “the Truth” or “the Logos” and I believe that salvation is by Faith, but it must be followed by a Discipleship much like that of Bonhoeffer. I could likewise not find a position on the Trinity, something that I feel is necessary in an absolute monotheism. Finally, the idea of a soul, immortal or not, was not revealed in your doctrine as I in my brief and incomplete review of Progressive Christianity. Thank you for any enlightenment or source of clarification.

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Trees and Things that Live

The idea that we humans have been given dominion over the animals, the trees and the waters is just wrong. At some point we are going to have to admit we have been blind to what we have done and are continuing to do. If we do not begin to function in harmony with all Creation, I am afraid Homo sapiens will have a short history on this earth. Even more tragic, we humans will have missed an opportunity to experience an amazing awareness that could have led to a profound, life changing spiritual experience and a very different worldly experience.

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What are we Teaching?

I sincerely believe one of the failures of the mainline churches is not taking religious education seriously for over a century. It is true that today more churches are taking advantage of excellent educational products provided by organizations like Living the Questions, publications and lectures by the Jesus Seminar and Westar and our own PC.org website and publications. Unfortunately they are probably too little, too late. Since most of these resources tend to focus on the deconstruction of the old Christian story, they are little more than a confirmation of what aging members of our congregations have suspected for decades. This new information may be interesting for them, but their children—and now grandchildren—who have never been committed to a community do not get it.

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What Kind of Music do We Use?

I believe that any truly spiritual path must understand that its main function is to provide the opportunity to experience true Unity or Oneness with all Creation. There are many ways to say the same thing, but every church, religious, or spiritual gathering is trying to help the attendee experience that Oneness. And I am convinced that one of the places we can do that is with music. The mega-churches in large part figured that out decades ago. But go into a typical church today with sixty members and listen to them try and experience Oneness or sense of Connectedness as they stumble through a difficult hymn or debate theology. Most people at some point in that experience are just hoping for the hymn to be over.

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My Struggle with Prayer

Somewhere in that time period one of my parishioners became terribly ill with cancer. They had already done surgery but the cancer came back. She was hospitalized several times and then they tried a new, much stronger chemotherapy that pushed her to the edge of death. It made her horribly sick. Over the years I had come to love this woman like a sister and considered her more than a dear friend. I would have done anything to help her. As I stood next to her bed in the hospital I was frustrated that I could not do more. At one point she opened her eyes, smiled and quietly whispered, “Hi Pastor Fred. Will you pray for me?”

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Developing Rituals With Meaning and Life

Over the last few years I have spoken and written extensively about my concerns with churches that continue to use ancient rituals, hymns and icons that reflect an understanding of a Fourth Century Christianity while the church leadership claims to be part of a progressive or at least “emerging” church. I am referring here specifically to the story that Jesus was the only begotten son of God, came to earth with one purpose, to suffer a horrible death as God’s sacrifice for the sins of the world. More than one critic of religion over the last century has argued that religions control participants with rituals that few ever give rational thought to.

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From Belief to Faith

Belief is something you hold because you presume you have some facts. You believe in them. When I was in college studying chemistry, there was a chart up on the wall that had all of the components that make up matter. You could count them and some people actually memorized them. Those components were treated as facts and if you wanted to get a good grade you better believe that they were facts.

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